The Highways Agency has released details of a new safety system that will help to keep the Dartford Crossing operating following the removal of payment barriers.
Since it launched on 30 November last year, Dart Charge has already helped to speed up journeys by removing the need to stop at a barrier to pay the Dartford Crossing charge. Images released by the Agency show a new way of identifying and managing overheight vehicles and dangerous loads before they enter the tunnel – a job until now that was carried out at the payment barriers. This is part of the wider changes which include signage on the approach to the Crossing, to give HGV drivers enough warning to get in the correct lane.
Highways Agency project director Nigel Gray said: “With Dart Charge, drivers no longer stop at a barrier to pay the crossing charge, speeding up journeys and reducing congestion. But the barriers are also the point at which we have identified and managed dangerous loads and oversized vehicles – so now we need a new approach. This system has been extensively tested and will be able to do the job effectively, and without requiring every driver to stop. It is a big part of fully realising the benefits that Dart Charge is already bringing.”
The new safety system will use various detectors to identify the vehicles, signs to encourage drivers to get into the correct lane in good time, and barriers and traffic signals to control them - bringing them to a safe stop and turning them around if necessary. Lanes at the side of the main carriageway will enable this to be done quickly and efficiently, minimising delays for other drivers. The system has been extensively tested over the last six months at a disused airfield using vehicles from a local haulage company.
Construction of the new system of traffic signals and barriers on the northbound carriageway will begin in late January and is due to be completed by early April.
The new system will detect whether a vehicle is too tall, wide or long to enter the tunnels or whether it is carrying hazardous goods that mean it cannot enter the tunnels or needs to be escorted. These will trigger a system of traffic signals and barriers that will stop the vehicle.
The new system has been designed to ensure that when a vehicle needs to be diverted away from the tunnels it is done in a way that causes the minimum disruption and delay to all drivers using the northbound carriageway.